Please Resign. Sincerely, Elizabeth Warren

 WSJ 7/3/2019

Democrats used to at least try to conceal their contempt for the private economy, but open hostility is now a political tactic. This week’s example is a broadside from Elizabeth Warren on a former Trump Administration official who dared to resume his career after leaving government.

In a Monday letter, Senator Warren blasted Scott Gottlieb, who might have thought he was returning to private life when he stepped down as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in the spring. Ms. Warren admits that, unlike “other administration officials,” Dr. Gottlieb worked “to strengthen protections for Americans” on issues like transparency and tobacco use.

But then Dr. Gottlieb committed the sin of joining the board of directors of Pfizer Inc. Ms. Warren writes that “this kind of revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption,” among other barbs. Ms. Warren says Dr. Gottlieb “should rectify your mistake and immediately resign from your position as a Pfizer board member.” Or else what? Progressives will boycott Lipitor?

Dr. Gottlieb advised and invested in healthcare start-ups, among many other hats, before he ran the FDA. Democrats attacked him during his confirmation process as too conflicted, by which they meant too experienced. Yet his expertise at the edge of medical innovation made him a more effective commissioner than any we can remember.

Ms. Warren says Americans will wonder if Trump officials are “working for them” or for future employers. An irony is that one of Dr. Gottlieb’s signature projects was speeding up approvals for generic drugs that compete with branded pharmaceuticals and drive down prices for consumers. He often called out regulatory “shenanigans” by big companies that reduced competition. Ms. Warren cites no evidence that Dr. Gottlieb favored Pfizer; her game is innuendo.

Better than Ms. Warren, the former law professor, Dr. Gottlieb knows that the next several years of political debate are crucial to U.S. pharmaceutical innovation. Why shouldn’t he resume his past work? By Ms. Warren’s standards he owes the public a lifetime vow of silence, or at least poverty. She appears especially incensed that Dr. Gottlieb will be paid for taking on the liability risk of being a director.

None of this is about the merits. The presidential candidate wants to disqualify anyone from serving in government unless they’re public-interest lawyers or have spent years camping out at progressive groups like Public Citizen. The outrage over “revolving doors” is absent for, say, Democrats who moved between environmental groups and the Obama Administration.

Dr. Gottlieb tweeted that he would “respond to her letter,” which he received from reporters, “promptly, directly, and privately,” and that shows a collegiality he wasn’t extended. Ms. Warren’s letter accuses Dr. Gottlieb of helping make Americans cynical and distrustful about government. What’s really cynical is smearing an honest official as a political stunt.


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